Thursday, November 30, 2006

Spicy Filipino Food at Alejandro's - CLOSED

Having found my new favorite Filipino restaurant, Alejandro's, in Glassell Park, I decided to make a return trip for lunch this past weekend. This time around, I decided to choose items on the menu that I've never had before. whether at home or at other Filipino restaurants. After choosing a couple of items on my own and getting some opinions from the waitress, who just happened to be the Owner's daughter, I chose 4 unique dishes (at least to me). See below for my take on them.

1) Bicol Express (seafood sauteed in coconut milk)

A specialty of the Bicol province, Bicol Express is a spicy seafood dish that also includes pork. The sweetness of the shrimp, the slightly chewy texture of the calamari, the delicate white fish along with the crunchy vegetables and the spicy coconut sauce was a heavenly combination. The overall flavor profile to me was sweet-heat.

2) Bagoong Fried Rice (fried rice with pork and shrimp paste)

Bagoong is a very pungent shrimp paste and not for the faint of heart, but mixed with the fried rice, you still get the salty-sweet pop of flavor without it being too overwhelming.

3) Ginataang Laing (taro leaves cooked in thick coconut sauce)

This is the first time I've ever had cooked taro leaves and in general, it reminded me of spinach in terms of flavor and texture.

The coconut sauce is the same coconut used for cooking the Bicol Express, but cooked longer so that it's thickened. With the coconut milk being cooked longer, the sauce seemed less sweet, but it still had a good flavor and still retained a little bit of heat.

4) Sisig (spicy diced pork with bell peppers and onions)

This was a really delicious dish. The pork is fried and the skin is included, so you get that fatty, meaty taste. The vegetables retain their crunchiness. With the chopped chilies included, the whole dish can give quite a punch unless you ask for milder heat.

It turns out you normally won't find this dish on the menus of too many Filipino restaurants.

Usually, sisig is a dish cooked by the men as a "drinking food." The guys would get together, drink, talk and eat and what they would eat are dishes meant just for this activity of male bonding, cooked by the men themselves. Since the sisig was so good, I think I'll have to find out about more of these types of foods so that I can try some other dishes.

I never really thought of Filipino food as being spicy, so other than the fried rice, I was a bit surprised by the other three dishes. When I asked my mom about it, she mentioned that the cuisine of the Bicol province in the Philippines does gear towards being spicier. Coconut milk is also used in a lot of Bicol cooking, which is a Malay influence on that region.

Both the Bicol Express and Taro leaves are Bicol specialties. She also mentioned that taro leaves have to be cooked just right or else they will leave an itchy sensation in your mouth and that Bicol cooks really know the correct way to cook the taro leaves. That's why you'll rarely see the cooked taro leaves on any mainstream Filipino restaurant menus unless there's a Bicol chef in residence.

As for why the sisig is spicy, apparently, a lot of the "drinking" foods also lean towards the spicier side because that's how the guys like it, especially when you combine that food with beer or any of the harder liquors. There's nothing really specifically regional about sisig or even "drinking food." It's a dish cooked in many different provinces.

The heat level of the all the dishes I ordered were mild, but even mild, you still got a little kick in each bite. The next time I order any of these dishes, I'll definitely pump up the volume so that I can experience the dishes as they were meant to be enjoyed, hot and spicy.

To see pics, go to:

4126 Verdugo Rd
Los Angeles 90065

Nicaraguan Mincemeat at El Gallo Pinto

Having previously eaten at El Gallo Pinto, a Nicaraguan restaurant in Azusa, I decided to check it once again during my lunch hour.

Before deciding on my entree, I ordered a drink called Melon Connaranja, which is basically a mixture of cantaloupe and orange juice. Wow, that drink was awesome. The drink was just really smooth and combined both the tart notes of the orange juice and the sweetness of the cantaloupe juice for a very refreshing drink.

After looking at the menu, I settled on mincemeat. When asking about mincemeat, I was told that it was beef, onions and chili peppers that are blended together in a food processor. Upong being served, I noticed that the appearance and the texture of the meat reminded me of ground pork. When tasting, I thought it had a very interesting texture. The meat was soft, but a little chewy, which makes me think that the meat was boiled perhaps?

For being boiled, I actually found the meat a little dry even when I squeezed lime on it per the waitress' suggestion. Perhaps that moisture was lost because of the food processing. It had good flavor because of the onions and the mild chili peppers, but it wasn't really a wow until I poured the restaurant house salsa into the meat and mixed it all together.

That Nicaraguan salsa is just to die for. It's made up of sour orange juice, onions and chili peppers and the sweet tartness of that salsa and the moisture of the orange juice really gave zing to that mincemeat. After that, I really enjoyed that meal.

Of course, the gallo pinto, which is the fried rice and beans that came with the meal and something I had before, was again quite tasty. The beans that are boiled with garlic really add lots of flavor to that rice.

Overall, it was a good meal. I don't think I'd go out of my way to order the Mincemeat again, but at least I can say that I tried it. One interesting thing though is that a couple of weeks later, I was at an El Salvadorean restaurant and mincemenat was on the menu there, too, so perhaps, it's more of a Central American dish in general and not just a Nicaraguan specialty.

To see pics, go to:

El Gallo Pinto

5559 N Azusa Ave
Azusa, CA
(626) 815-9907

"Soup's On!" - Mami Soup at Asian Noodles - CLOSED

With the weather getting cooler, I was definitely looking forward to warming myself up with wintertime soups and stews, so my friend and I thought it'd be fun to organize outings to restaurants that specialize in certain kinds of entree soups, ethnic and otherwise.

With me being Filipina, I wanted to introduce people to a Chinese-inspired, Filipino soup called Mami. First, a little history that I picked up from Wikpedia.

Mami is the creation of Ma Mon Luk, a grade school teacher in Canton. Arriving penniless in Manila, Ma Mon Luk decided to peddle chicken noodle soup, utilizing egg noodles. He soon became a familiar sight in the streets of Manila, plodding down with a long bamboo pole slung on his shoulders with two metal containers on each end. Ma Mon Luk himself called his concoction "gupit", after the Tagalog word for "cut with scissors". Soon however, Filipinos took to calling the dish "mami", an amalgam of Tagalog words for chicken ("manok") and egg noodles ("miki"). Ma Mon Luk also introduced siopao, a steamed bun, which is like the Chinese bao, to Filipino culture and generally, the siopao is eaten as a side to the mami soup.

Anyway, I took the group to experience mami soup at Asian Noodles in Chinatown. While mami is still made up of chicken broth and noodles, you have meat options other than chicken. Now you can get mami soup with beef, pork or won ton. I opted for the Classic Filipino Mami, which has chicken and pork.

My mami soup was excellent. The broth was flavorful with the green onions adding just the right amount of zip. The noodles were cooked just right and not overdone and the meat was tender. What was nice is that they also put out a couple of bowls of extra broth so as you ran out, you could add more to your mami.

Along with the mami, I had the bola bola siopao, which had a filling of chicken, pork, sausage and salted egg. You can also order siopao with just chicken or pork fillings.

In regards to the siopao fillings, regardless of what type of meat is used, the filling tends to be on the sweet side. Usually, the siopao meat mixture has sugar and soy sauce as part of its ingredients. I think the combo of the two gives siopao a unique sweet-salty flavor. That sweet-salty flavor also gets carried into the sauce that the siopao is dipped in since it is also made up of sugar, soy sauce along with other ingredients. What I like about the bola bola siopao is that the sausage and the salted egg will cut down the sweetness of the filling even more, so that when I break off a piece to dip it in the siopao sauce, all the flavors are balanced well.

By the way, an interesting thing that the manager told us is that the number of red dots showing up on the siopao will tell you which kind of siopao you have. By the way, Bola Bola siopaos only have one red dot.

Whenever I eat mami, I'm reminded me of those moments growing up as a kid, when the rainy season would come and when my Mom didn't feel like cooking, she'd pile the whole family in the car and we'd head off for a steaming hot bowl of Mami soup at a local Filipino restaurant. No words were needed as we enjoyed each spoonful to the last drop. Essentially, mami soup is really just another version of chicken noodle soup, but regardless of what name it goes by, it's good comfort food that will warm you from the inside out and it certainly did its job that evening.

To see pics, go to:

Asian Noodles

643 N Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

"The Great Steakhouse Challenge" - Dinner at Jar

Third up in this series was Jar in Los Angeles, CA. After my heavenly experience at Dal Rae, Jar definitely had a lot to live up to in my books.

Unfortunately, my tale is part woe and part bliss. Before we get to the woe part, I want to mention that everything started off on a high note for me when I had my salad. That salad, which consisted of roasted beets, arugula, sweet roquefort and balsamic vinaigrette, was absolutely delicious. Considering that I work for a produce company that makes bagged salads, I'm extremely picky about my salads and I finished everything on my plate to the last beet.

Following the fantastic salad came the woe. :( I ordered the skirt steak and was extremely disappointed. First off, I expected the meat to be
more marbelized, just a little bit fatty to allow for flavor in the meat. Also with that little bit of fat, the outside of the steak would have also been more caramelized, which again would have again contributed better to its flavor. The meat was also chewy-soft, if that makes sense. After the high of the Petite Filet Pepper Steak I had at Dal Rae, this skirt steak was a real downer.

In retrospect, the waiter did say that the dishes that Jar is known for are the items listed under the Braises and Sautes section of the menu and lo and behold, some in the group ordered the lamb shank with star anise, coriander and garlic as well as the Jar's signature pot roast and were quite happy with their meal, so on a return visit, I probably would make different choices.

However, it should be noted that two people in our group split the Prime Porterhouse and raved about the tenderness of the meat, the flavor and the juiciness of the meat, which is another reason to avoid the skirt steak altogether next time.

But along with the woe was bliss and that bliss for me in the form of the french fries with garlic and parsley that I ordered as a side. Crunchy and with a flavor zing...those fries made me a happy camper. Also, the dessert special that I shared with a friend was awesome, a rich butterscotch pudding that almost made me weep with joy. I also had a taste of Jar's signature chocolate pudding and oh my gosh, it was creamy dark chocolate perfection!

Overall, I would make my way to Jar again, but at least this time, I know what not to order in way of a steak and if the butterscotch pudding isn't available, the chocolate pudding will do just as well.

To see pics, go to:

By the way, my camera settings weren't as they should be, so the pics are a bit blurry in the photoset above.

8225 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hunan's Restaurant in Alhambra - CLOSED

Last night, my dining group made a foray into Alhambra to try out the Hunan cuisine at Hunan's restaurant. We ordered a total of 9 different dishes and we definitely chowed down. For the most part, I'd say that the dishes were hit and miss. Either I really liked a particular dish a lot or there would be something I probably would never order again.

The three standouts for me included the following:

* Toss-Fried Mutton with Cilantro - The mutton was tender and upon taking the first bite, the dish didn't seem that spicy, but then it does give you a zing on your palate after swallowing. I also liked the grassiness of the cilantro.

* Toss-Fried Chicken with Hot Sauce - Everything just came together, the heat, the texture, the flavor!

* Steamed Hunan Style Spicy Fresh Fish (Whole) - This fish was awesome. The meat was moist and delicate plus the sauce really complemented the fish meat as opposed to overwhelming it.

The two dishes I would skip over are:

* Three Flavored Dumplings - Not much flavor here. In fact, these dumplings were beyond bland.

* Eggplant & Ground Pork with Pickled Vegetables - Normally, I love eggplant, but this dish was way too salty for my taste.

Overall, I would make my way back to Hunan's Restaurant again. There were a lot of items on the menu I wasn't able to try this time, but would like to another time and hopefully, I'll have even more hits than last night.

To see pics, go to:

Hunan's Restaurant
903 W. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA, 91803

Dinner at the Oinkster

I finally checked out Oinkster and while I really, really wanted to like it, I was very disappointed. I ordered the regular combo which consisted of the bbq pork sandwich, regular fries and a soft drink. To add to my order, I also got a side of red cabbage slaw and a peanut butter and jelly cupcake. The only thing I really liked was the peanut butter and jelly cupcake.

First, my bbq pulled pork sandwich was a bust! There was more red cabbage slaw and onions than actual pork. While the pork was reasonably moist, it had no flavor. They also didn't add the bbq sauce to the sandwich and when I got some in a little cup to add to the sandwich myself, the bbq sauce was so watery that I decided to forget about it.

The Belgian fries weren't crispy enough. It's almost as if they fried it only once and not twice which is the standard way of cooking Belgian French Fries. They reminded me of In-N-Out Fries and that's not to say that I don't like In-N-Out Fries, but for something that's touting itself to be Belgian French Fries, that's what I should have gotten.

This red slaw was too vinegary and had too strong a flavor that I couldn't identify until my friend mentioned that they added too much celery seed.

As for the peanut butter cupcake, while I would have liked the frosting to be a bit creamier, the flavor was good and plus I loved the fact that there was grape jelly inside.

Overall, I won't be making my way back to The Oinkster anytime soon.

To see pics, go to:

The Oinkster
2005 Colorado Blvd.
Eagle Rock, CA

"Burmese Feast" at Golden Triangle

Earlier in the year, I set up a sampler dinner at Golden Triangle for my dining group, where we got to experience 14 different Burmese dishes. Wow, what an evening of culinary delight.

Out of the 14 dishes, I've had six of them before and of course, that includes Golden Triangle's signature dish, their Ginger Salad. For those of you who have never had this salad before, believe me, it's worth the drive to Whittier just to try it.

The Ginger Salad consists of shredded ginger tossed with coconut, garlic, yellow peas, ground peanuts and sesame seeds with lemon sauce. The textures, the crunch and the flavors are amazing. You get a little sweet, a little tart, a little nutty, a little spicy in every single bite and you'd think that all those flavors would clash, but I kid you not, they harmonize very well o
n the palate.

Other dishes that I've enjoyed before include the Dai Kon Vegetable Sour Soup, which is very similar to Sinigang, a tamarind-based sour Filipino soup as well as the Burmese Dun Bauk Htamin, which is baked rice with herbs and chicken. This baked rice is actually drier than you'd expect, but I kind of liked the harder texture of the rice as well as the curry flavoring of the dish.

Of the 8 dishes that I've never tried before, three of them really stood out for me. One was the Tofu Salad. On the menu, it looks unassuming and there's not much of a description to go along with it, but let me tell you, that Tofu Salad was out of this world.

The great thing about the tofu in the salad is that it's housemade. You won't believe how creamy and silky that tofu was and again just like the Ginger Salad; there were a lot of great textures to this Salad. Along with the creamy tofu, you get the crisp cabbage as well as crunchy deep fried onions. I honestly think that if all I had for my meal was the Ginger Salad and the Tofu Salad, I would have been perfectly happy.

The second item that blew my socks off was Burmese Shrimp, which was shrimp sautéed with tomatoes, onions and a pretty spicy sauce. The sweetness of the shrimp really mixed well with the tomato's acidity and that sauce was amazing. Lots of flavor layers and it had a really good kick to it.

Another new favorite was the Shue Gi Mok, which was a very interesting dessert. It's cake-like and at least two of the ingredients were coconut milk and raisins. I'm not sure what else was in this dessert, but I liked it a lot. It was sweet, but overwhelmingly so and I could really taste the coconut milk. The dessert reminded me of the Filipino cassava cake. Very similar in texture, although the Shue Gi Mok was softer.

Overall, I really love putting together these sampler dinners. Not only do I get re-experience the dishes that I already love, but I also get to try out new dishes that I've never had before. It was a really fun night and I think that everyone enjoyed their meal so much that they'll definitely be going back.

To see pics, go to:

Golden Triangle

7011 Greenleaf Ave
Whittier, CA, 90602

Alejandro's Filipino Restaurant in Glassell Park - CLOSED

Being Filipino, I'm very picky about Filipino food. At every Filipino restaurant I go to, the litmus test for me is that after having eaten there, I ask myself, is the food there as good as Mom's cooking. It doesn't even matter to me whether it's a particular dish that my Mom has made or not. It's more about the food matching up to my Mom's high standard of cooking.

So far, only one restaurant has come close to that high standard and it was a Filipino restaurant in Artesia called Magic Wok, but last month, I experienced with my dining group a restaurant that I feel surpasses Magic Wok. That restaurant is Alejandro's in the Glassell Park area.

The food there was outstanding and every thing we ordered, I could easily see on my Mom's dining table ready for us to devour. There was the spicy goat stew. The goat meat was tender and didn't have any the normally gamey taste associated with it. The addition of the olives to this dish also gave it a nice hit of saltiness The creamy coconut sauce with the Shrimp Hipon was so good, I could have easily drank it by the gallon.

And than there was the crispy pata. Now my Mom has never deep fried pig knuckles, but if she did, it would have been like the one at Alejandro's. The dish arrived with a knife sticking straight out, which left no room for doubt that this dish wasn't for the faint of heart. Not very many people are into pork skin, but growing up eating crispy pata, I completely appreciated and savored the crispy, crunchy golden skin and of course, the moist meat underneath the skin was also something I enjoyed completely.

Other standouts of the meal happened before the meal when many of us ordered a variety of unsusual smoothies and iced drinks. There was the pandan and green mango smoothie, which had pistachio notes as well as having a hint of tartness. I had the sweet yellow corn milkshake, which to many in the group, was a bit odd, but after letting some sample it, I got a few converts.

For dessert, we all had suman, which is a sweetened rice wrapped in banana leaves. Alejandro's actually cut the suman in squares, topped with fried coconut as well as a piece of leche plan (e.g. flan). It was an awesome dessert and served in a way that I've never experienced before, so it was definitely a first.

Overall, Alejandro's is definitely a find and a restaurant that I will certainly return to over and over again and I hope that many of you will decide to check it out as well.

To see pics, go to:

4126 Verdugo Rd
Los Angeles, CA 90065

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"The Great Steakhouse Challenge" - Dinner at Dal Rae

Second up for the "Great Steakhouse Challenge" dinner series was Dal Rae in Pico Rivera.

Did you know that the 1950s never left Dal Rae in Pico Rivera? In fact, as I was driving up Washington Blvd, I already knew I was going somewhere special. From a few streets away, I could already see the tall beautiful neon sign with the restaurant name in blazing red lights. No cheesy backlit plastic for Dal Rae. It was class all the way.

Upon entering the lobby, I was greeted by live music in the bar and two
hostesses, who with their almost bouffant hair-dos helped set the stage for my 50s time warp. Inside the bustling restaurant, my eyes took in the wood paneled walls and the black leather banquettes and I felt right at home.

Once seated, iced relish trays were swept onto to the table while drink orders were taken. While perusing the menu, we were able to crunch our way through cold crisp veggies. It's amazing to start your meal with fresh produce edibles. For someone who's eaten at a lot of restaurants, this was a welcome first for me.

Speaking of the menu, Dal Rae's vintage menu contained old standbys like lobster thermidor, oysters Rockefeller and tableside Caesar. Desserts even included relics like bananas flambé and cherries jubilee.

With all the choices, it was hard to decide but eventually everyone made their selections. After placing our orders, French bread, breadsticks and thick cracker wafers came out, soon followed by garlic bread. For our presently carb-conscious world, a lot of people would be running out the door screaming, but hey, in my 50s daze, I took helpings of both.

Appetizers were ordered, but the one that held the most fascination was the escargot cooked in garlic butter. The aroma was so strong that I think people from the bar could have smelled it; yet, it was also so tantalizing that I may have been willing to forget that escargot was French for snails and sampled the dish anyway.

After the appetizers were enjoyed and consumed, our steak fest began. After all, steak was the main reason we came to Dal Rae in the first place. Orders included Steak Diane, prepared tableside, as well as prime rib, steak and other various cuts of meat. For the meat entrees, it truly is all about the meat. The sides are kept simple. You get veggies and potatoes cooked in some fashion whether it's baked or French-fried.

I ordered the Petite Filet Pepper Steak and it was cooked to perfection. Both tender and moist, it was literally packed with flavor. Just looking at it, I could see the black and white pepper embedded into the meat's surface. I was so enthralled with my steak that I barely touched the vegetables or my baked potato. My steak was just that good. The empty plates around the table conveyed how much we all loved Dal Rae's steak offerings.

Amazingly enough, there was still room for dessert or perhaps it was our childish glee in seeing fruit set on fire that prompted us to order both the bananas flambé and the cherries jubilee. The tableside preparation of both our desserts was a sight to see with flames igniting the fruit and alcohol in the pans. But even better was savoring the hot sweetness of the fruit mixtures poured over the cold sweetness of vanilla ice cream. A perfect end to a perfect meal.

So ended our time space continuum foray into 1950s steakhouse glory and wow, was it worth the trip. From start to finish, our time at Dal Rae was a sheer visual, atmospheric and culinary delight and if the only way I can come back is to sport a beehive, I'd do so without question.

To see pics, go to:

Dal Rae

9023 Washington Blvd
Pico Rivera, CA 90660
(323) 723-4427

Pizza and Wine Pairings at Pitfire Pizza Company

Being always on the look out for fun food and wine combinations, I set up a pizza and wine pairing event with Pitfire Pizza Company and my dining group came along to share the experience.

Pitfire Pizza Company prides itself in using fresh local ingredients for most of the items on their men
u and that definitely showed in the 6 different pizzas we sampled that night. Of the six, two stood out.

First, there's the asparagus and egg pizza. Yes, you are reading correctly. Asparagus and egg pizza. Along with the asparagus and an oven-poached egg, ingredients also include Tuscan proscuitto, roasted garlic, fontina cheese and lemon zest. Dare I say that with the ham and the egg, it's almost like a breakfast pizza, for surely, I could eat this pizza morning, noon or night. With all its many textures and flavors, from the crunch of the asparagus to the subtle tartness of the lemon zest, each bite felt like a wonderful surprise party.

But my absolute favorite pizza of the night was called Deidre's Bianca, inspired by Pitfire Pizza's Marketing Director, Deidre. Ingredients for this pizza included a mix of dandelion greens, black Russian kale, arugula with herbed ricotta, mozzarella and roasted garlic. What I loved about this pizza was the flavor profiles of the greens, which leaned towards being peppery, a little bitter and overall, packed punches of strong flavor. The herbs in the cheese served as a great enhancement to the greens while some of the sweetness of the roasted garlic ensured that everything was in balance.

Here I have been raving about the pizza, but have yet to even mention the pizza and wine pairings, which were a welcome change from the regular standby of pizza and beer. However, I found something amusing about the whole business of eating pizza with my hands while twirling a wine glass in between bites. It was definitely an "Inner Child" meets "Grown Up Sophisticate (or at least the Sophisticate of my own mind)" kind of thing.

Since I'm more of a foodie than a wine enthusiast, I can't necessarily speak well about the wine we had for the evening. I can say that some pairings worked better than others. For example, I really enjoyed the Rock Rabbit Sauvignon Blanc 2005 with the Heirloom Tomato Pizza. It was a wine that was a bit citrusy and mellow and balanced well with the sweet acidity of the tomatoes and the stronger flavor of the basil. On the other end of the spectrum, the Boutari Moschofilero, a Greek wine, bombed when paired with Deidre's Bianca pizza. It makes sense to pair the Bianca with a stronger red wine given that the greens on that pizza have a kick to them, but that wine was too over powering.

For many, pizza and beer may still be the way to go, but I think that pizza and wine also have their own merits and it's fun to experiment. With the variety of wines out there, you're certain to find a perfect marriage of pizza and wine and you'll probably have a lot of fun in the process, too.

To see pics, go to:

Pitfire Pizza Company
108 West 2nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012

El Mercadito and Lunch at El Gallito

Last summer, a group of us went off to explore El Mercadito in East LA. El Mercadito is a three-level shopping center that caters to the Hispanic population in Los Angeles, but we were there in the most part for the food. Since many of us who came were unfamiliar with true authentic Mexican foods and beverages, I enlisted the help of Raul Rodriguez, owner of Nevera Fruit Creations, to help shed some light and he's the one that would describe some of the various foods we were seeing and tasting and would even enlist the vendors to further explain, if needed.

With the weather being very warm and while waiting for others to arrive, some of us already opted to quench our thirst with many of the beverage choices that were available. I went with a fresca, which is a water beverage flavored and sweetened with fruits and flowers. My fruit of choice was cantaloupe and believe me, drinking that cantaloupe fresca was pure heaven. Others went with the more well-known horchatas and a couple of us even had the raspado, the Mexican version of shaved ice.

When everyone was finally gathered together and after paying a visit to the painting of the Virgin Mary in the parking lot, our taste buds were ready for some action and they definitely got that. For our time at El Mercadito, we sampled a variety of items from
something as well-known as golden, crunchy churros to sweetened pumpkin that reminded me of a pumpkin pie with my first bite of it. We also had tried out a fermented corn drink that had a sour taste to it that didn't appeal to me very much but there were one or two in our group who enjoyed it a lot.

Other things included chili mango, corn with cotija cheese (at least I think it's cotija cheese) and a variety of sweets from the Mexican sweet shop that was inside the El Mercadito. While we were grazing, we also checked out the Market from top to bottom.

The first floor has stalls that sell a variety of goods, from leather goods to clothing to music. The second floor is definitely geared towards food. There is a bakery, a produce section and stalls where you can purchase everything from pre-made mole sauce to
snack items to seeds and spices that can be used for cooking. There are also between 5 to 6 small restaurants where you can get a bite to eat. The third floor had two larger restaurants facing each other with dueling mariachi bands both playing at the same time.

El Mercadito is a really cool market and it was great to have a guide talk us through El Mercadito's culinary offerings and even better, get to sample some of them. After close to 2 hours walking through the market, the majority of the group was ready to call it a day, but my friend and I decided to have lunch at one of the restaurants and Raul recommended El Gallito.

Upon approaching El Gallito, we were overwhelmed by all the choices available to us and there were some dishes that we never heard of before. It actually helped that at the windowsill surrounding the kitchen area, you could actually see up close some of the dishes that were pictured below the restaurant neon sign.

I ordered a sope with carnitas, a huarache with carne asada and a ceviche tostado with shrimp. I have to tell you that in the pictures
these items seemed smaller than they actually were once the plates were put in front of you. I think they really gave you good portions. Now on to the food. First, I didn't care too much for the sope. The tortilla shell it was resting on was too hard and the pork was a little dry. Also, it just had too much stuff on it, which made it difficult to eat.

The huarache was wonderful. It was my first time having this dish and I have to say that it was delicious, especially the meat, which had lots of flavor and everything that went with this dish, the lettuce, the sour cream, the cheese just really makes me wish for a second time sometime soon.

The ceviche tostado with shrimp was absolutely yummy. The tartness of the lime, the acidity of the tomatoes, the sweetness of the shrimp all came together in perfect harmony. I also ordered a papaya milkshake, which I was disappointed in. It had more milk than papaya I think and I would have preferred to taste more of the fruit. El Gallito was a good recommendation and I'm glad we managed to save some room for lunch there.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at El Mercadito and I would definitely go back and for those of you who have never paid a visit, I hope that you'll decide it check it sometime.

To see pics, go to: